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Write On Ottawa: Wonderful debut novel sparkles with literary talent

By Alejandro Bustos on April 5, 2014

Ottawa-based author Stacey Atkinson is a joy to read.  In fact, I loved her novel Stuck so much, I had to double-check whether it was her literary debut.

Stuck is my first book, which I independently published under my own company Mirror Image Publishing,” Atkinson assures Apartment613.  “It is also my first published work of any length, unless you count my song writing days . . . but that’s a whole other story.”

Stuck tells the story of Odette Leblanc, a young 23-year-old woman in a small New Brunswick town who works in a convenience store.  Her life feels trapped in a dead end, with her dull retail job and a dysfunctional family.  (Her mother is a bingo addict; her father was jailed for murder;  her younger sister is at risk of ending up like Natalie, their older sister who at 25 already has a failed marriage and three kids by three different fathers).

Odette’s life seems destined to be a dispiriting, mediocre drudge, until she meets a mysterious doryman.  Soon after she comes across a rich young man whose wealthy family is vacationing for the summer in New Brunswick.

Delighted by this turn of events, Odette allows herself to dream of escaping her small town and being free, as well as maybe — just maybe — falling in love.  Unfortunately, she falls victim to her own lies.

Surrounding this intriguing narrative are discussions on class differences, in particular the vast space that exists between growing up poor in a small town, and being a wealthy person who can travel in and out of places at whim.

stacey (cropped)

Stacey Atkinson

“I’ve always been intrigued by the class divide, whether it be in books, film or real life.  I think it makes for richer characters,” says Atkinson, who was born in a village on the outskirts of Moncton, New Brunswick.  “Everyone is always dreaming of a better life in some way.  I am also inspired by the people I see on the street and in the grocery store — just everyday people.”

This ability to make the everyday seem extraordinary is a joy to read, for it is Atkinson’s strong literary talent that makes this book shine.

Sometimes a plot is so original it can make up for wooden writing.  (I am a huge fan of science fiction icon Philip K. Dick, whose brilliant ideas overcome his occasional clunky style).

In the case of Stuck, however, the narrative — while interesting — is not what makes this book so enjoyable.  In the hands of a lesser writer, Odette could transform into an overly brooding, even slightly boring person.  In Atkinson’s hands, however, she is a fascinating woman who longs to see the world, but who is caught up in her own deceit and fears.

One of the great things about the Write On Ottawa series is that it has allowed me to read numerous talented authors from the National Capital Region.  Excellent wordsmiths such as Peggy Blair, Catherine Brunelle, David O’Meara and Michael Blouin are proof positive that our region is filled with brilliant writing.

After finishing Stuck, I would add Stacey Atkinson to my list of favourite local authors.  Her writing is very strong, while her ability to make characters come to life is a sheer delight.